Reflections and Expectations: Short Turn

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What an interesting last few months it has been. Join me in a look back at these last three months in the latest Reflections and Expectations.

April, May and June 2017

Birthday, April 4 – I turned 28 that day. That was pretty much about it.

Relay for Life of Mission Viejo, June 3 to June 4 – For the second year in a row, I participated in this local American Cancer Society-sponsored event to support the Canedy family — friends I’ve known for almost seven years.

Each year, the event raises money for cancer research in a variety of fun ways put on by the dozens of teams that participate. I was part of the Green for Bean team that the Canedy family has had going for more than a decade — taking turns walking laps around the track at Saddleback College, raising money for our own team and supporting others as well. I’ve financially supported the team since 2011 before finally being able to join them in the annual event last year. It’s always a great feeling and a great time being there.

MTI convocation ceremony, June 17 – This year, I attended the graduation ceremony for graduates of the Master of Science in Transportation Management degree program, administered by the Mineta Transportation Institute at San Jose State University. I was in attendance to cheer on my former classmates graduating after me, as I officially graduated last December. I already had my turn at last year’s ceremony, even though I had to return in the fall semester to finish out one more course. Still hasn’t hit me that I’m an alum of this program. I’d give it some more time.

VTA coach operator training, May 3 to June 13 – For a six-week period, I was among the class of initially 30 students who were training to become coach operators (bus drivers) for the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA). This intensive nine-week program is conducted a few times each year, preparing students to become part of the next generation of bus drivers to fill vacancies created for any number of reasons (retirements, deaths, terminations, promotions among the common reasons).

During week six of this nine-week program, I was dismissed. That brought the number down to 27 students who remained standing as of that day I was cut (two students before me left on their own volition weeks before this).

This opportunity was months in the making. The recruitment process opened up for applications in late January, initial written exams took place in early February and interviews in early March. I spent the remainder of March and April obtaining a Class B driver’s permit, getting fingerprinted, submitting to a physical exam among other administrative matters before officially being on-boarded in early May.

I always knew this would be a challenging endeavor, perhaps the most challenging of my lifetime. But it was one I very much anticipated and looked forward to taking on once that day came. In my interview and throughout the training program itself, I often talked openly about how my lifelong experience and appreciation for taking transit would be an asset in this capacity once — and if — my roles reversed from passenger to operator. I went into this program with a genuine interest for the work at stake, even though I possessed no previous professional experience as a commercial vehicle driver.

When it was all said and done, I progressed as far as I did but not enough to the point where I could have become a full-fledged coach operator. I truly did give it my best shot in this expectedly challenging program. I learned a lot from this experience, some of which could be applicable in other areas of my life and career as well. 

I am heartbroken and disappointed that I wasn’t able to make it all the way through and possibly beyond. Nevertheless, it truly was an experience of a lifetime. I’m grateful to VTA, its training personnel and my former classmates for making this experience one that I will never forget. Hopefully not before long, I’ll get to see some of my former classmates welcoming me onto their buses one of these days. I’ll look forward to that.

July, August and September

Job search – That last item made this the third time in the last year and a half where I lost a job. Where will I go next? God only knows.

It’s summertime – No big plans yet. It’ll probably be a series of small things to keep me going. I’ll go find some more books to check out at the library. Yes, I started doing that again recently. First time in years, really.

Let me hear your stories. How have you been in these last few months? Any fun summer plans ahead? Share your thoughts below in the comments. I would love to hear from you.

Top of the Ticket

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Clipped from the SAMPLE ballot in my home jurisdiction of Santa Clara County, Calif.

My choices in this state for the next President of these United States on Nov. 8 (or before, if I choose to vote early):

Gloria La Riva, Peace and Freedom Party – This party is farther to the left than the solidly progressive Green Party. La Riva makes Jill Stein look like Hillary Clinton.

Donald Trump, GOP – [sigh] Where do I start? You know what, I won’t. Next ticket…

Gary Johnson, Libertarian Party – While Johnson has the right idea on some issues, he has some misguided views or has waffled on others. If Bill Weld was at the top of this ticket, I would have given this team greater consideration.

Jill Stein, Green Party – I was for her, albeit reluctantly, as she is closer to being a progressive as Bernie Sanders than Hillary. While I uneasily put up with Dr. Stein’s reluctance to fully denounce people who are against mandatory vaccinations and her openness to clinging to certain nutty conspiracy theories on a variety of issues, there came a point where I could no longer reasonably support her.

Hillary Clinton, Democratic Party – She’s always been a strong, well-qualified candidate. My interest in her declined upon Sanders’ entry into the race and after learning about her insufficiently progressive credentials. My distaste for her became even more pronounced when the Democratic National Committee, in those leaked emails from Wikileaks, revealed how the party establishment was unsurprisingly in the tank for Clinton while trying to undermine the Vermont senator. I don’t care that much about the emails, Benghazi and a bunch of other issues surrounding her like the Right does. Some of them are problems in their own ways but she has settled those issues in various ways. Still, I’m unsure about throwing my support around her just yet.

______________ (write-in candidate) – The California Secretary of State says I have these five options for this line. It’s good to see Bernie as a legitimate choice although it was not organized by the senator himself. Even if I did write in Bernie, he has virtually no chance of winning. In the off-chance he did win this and enough of other states to receive at least 270 electoral votes, there’s no guarantee he will even accept the offer to serve as the 45th President of these United States.

I didn’t struggle this much with the down-ballot races and propositions. Never have I struggled much about voting for anyone of any level since I began voting in 2008. You can easily deduct who I might gravitate toward at the top of the ticket but even I’m still not sure if it is a done deal just yet. I also know there are at least two candidates I definitely will not be voting for. I know, I live in a solid blue state so it doesn’t matter what I think.

I’ll be glad when it’s finally Nov. 9.

On This Sunday: Fun with Maps

On Friday night, I stumbled upon mapchart.net to create maps of California counties and U.S. states I have lived in and visited. Why? Because I still have quite a ways to go before I ever find myself dating anyone for the first time in my life.

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For the California counties map, bear in mind that there are 58 counties in the Golden State and I have so far lived in three of them — the current being Santa Clara County in the Bay Area. Having grown up in SoCal, I spent about half of the cumulative years of my life in Los Angeles County — the most populous county in the state and the nation — as well as the tail-end of my teenage years and early adult years in Orange County.

Marked in yellow are passthrough counties, where I have passed through such jurisdictions by some form of ground transportation but did not exit the vehicles to physically set foot anywhere within their geographical limits. Most of the yellow counties are rural and sparsely populated although some of the notable exceptions include San Luis Obispo, Contra Costa and Butte (home to the City of Chico).

Over time, I expect to visit more counties — both the never-traveled in grey as well as formally visiting the ones in yellow. After I gain any major ground, I will provide an update on this space. For now, the tally of all counties visited, lived and passed through are 33.

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Onto the states. The current tally of all visited, lived and passed through states are 27 plus the District of Columbia. I have only resided in two states so far with California being where I’ve called home for all but a few cumulative years of my life (I was born in and spent parts of my early life in South Korea, for which I will not cover in this post.)

Five states currently hold the passthrough distinction, which is the same idea with the counties earlier. This is down from seven at the start of 2016. This year, I managed to change the statuses of Arizona and Texas — formerly airport layover passthroughs in 2013 — by formally taking trips to Phoenix and Dallas in January and July, respectively. Visiting any of the remaining yellow states is a low priority although I hope to formally visit those states at various points in the future.

In the years to come, I hope to cover as many of the never-traveled states as possible through various means. Salt Lake City, Kansas City / St. Louis and New Orleans in the states of Utah, Missouri and Louisiana, respectively, are high on my list of new cities I want to visit next. Memphis, Minneapolis and the state of Hawaii are my so-called second-tier destinations under consideration as well. The rest of the country could be covered through future Amtrak long-distance train travels although Wyoming and South Dakota are the only two in the contiguous United States currently without passenger rail service. Regardless of the purpose or the mode of transportation, I hope to cover all 50 states in due time.

Enough with my wonky, geographical exhibitions. I should probably find some more things to do in life, preferably with other people involved somehow.

Reflections and Expectations: Pomp and Circumstance

Feel free to run this music as you read on.

All set? Let’s look back at the month that was in the latest Reflections and Expectations.

June

Relay for Life, June 4 & 5 – I joined the Canedy family — by association of my friends, Robin and Brett — and their friends for this weekend-long fundraising event at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo. After donating money to their Green for Bean team over the last five years, I was finally able to join them by participating in the event. I mainly contributed by taking turns walking laps around the track in the campus’ football field. The team as a whole walked 262 laps that weekend and I was proud to have walked as many as I could for them.

The American Cancer Society hosts Relay for Life events in communities across the country each year, benefitting cancer patients and survivors as well as raising funds to support research for a cure to this disease. The Canedy family has been participating for 11 years after their grandfather passed away from cancer in 2003. Having known this family through Robin and Brett over the last six years, I am grateful I was able to catch up with them over that weekend and support this great group of individuals I am glad to call friends. It became somewhat emotional for me as well because I greatly value their relationships but do not get to see them as much. This was good for all of us in many ways.

California presidential primary election, June 7 – Yes, I voted in the much-ballyhooed Golden State presidential primary election. I voted for Bernie Sanders for the Democratic presidential nomination, Kamala Harris for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) among a bunch of other Democrats in local, state and federal offices. I’m disappointed Bernie will not be the nominee although it was always a long shot. I’m voting Green for the first time ever in November as I have soured on Hillary Clinton over the course of this election cycle.

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MTI convocation ceremony at SJSU, June 18 – The Mineta Transportation Institute hosted this ceremony for graduates of the Master of Science in Transportation Management degree program at San Jose State University. While my official end in the program won’t come until December after finishing out one more course, the ceremony was the time for recognition and celebration.


Despite a series of personal and professional setbacks over the last six months that threatened to damper the significance of this event for me, it all worked out in so many ways at the end. I met with fellow classmates, instructors, industry leaders and professionals and even some elected officials. My most notable encounter was with the living legend himself — former USDOT Sec. Norman Mineta, founder of his namesake research institution.

It was a gratifying and exciting moment as I rarely get in front of a large group of people, for which I’m one of the few people that doesn’t see that as scary. I learned a great deal from the program as it helps me develop into a more competent, well-rounded transportation professional who is prepared to take on management roles in this business down the line. I’m forever grateful for all the people, inside and outside of the program, who became some of my best supporters and mentors over the course of this effort.

Back to work, June 22 – Four days after that last item (and partly as a result of said event), I joined VSCE as an outreach project analyst. At this small civil engineering firm based in Downtown Oakland (close to BART and many fantastic restaurants!), I’m brought on in a part-time role to work on proposals and community outreach for local transportation clients in the Bay Area. A determination regarding a promotion to a full-time status will be determined this fall.

This new role marks a return to my roots in community relations in transportation, a kind of opportunity that’s been difficult to find since the end of my two-year internship at the Orange County Transportation Authority in August 2012. Regardless of how long my current role lasts, I’m glad to be back to where I really belong in my career. I’ve been long overdue for a comeback.

July

  • Fourth of July – It appears I will be staying in town this year for the Independence Day holiday. Each year since 2012, I either traveled to a different city or lived in a city where I previously have never attended fireworks shows. The Bay Area will become another new place for me to enjoy this holiday with plans to attend a show in San Francisco or San Jose.
  • Dallas – Later in the month, I’ll make my first visit to the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex to meet up with a long-time friend of mine living there as well as to check out the rest of the region itself. Glad to finally get a summer trip in somewhere.
  • One year of yoga! – July 18 marks my first full year of practicing yoga anywhere! I still practice vinyasa yoga almost every Wednesday night at The Yoga Studio in Downtown Campbell. I love how yoga has changed my life thus far and I am eager to see how it continues to help going forward.

Enough about my month. How was yours? I’d love to hear from you by sharing your thoughts below.

On This Sunday: Hawk Strong

11018866_10153130227529127_2859657727111889474_n Last Monday was a difficult day for my alma mater El Dorado High School (EDHS) in Placentia, Calif. 31-year-old photography teacher Jillian Jacobson was found dead in a classroom that morning in an apparent suicide. KABC-TV has the full story.

I did not know Mrs. Jacobson. Nevertheless, it is undoubtedly a tragic moment that affects students, faculty, staff and alumni alike. My thoughts are with her family, students and anyone else close to her.

This tragedy hits home for me as EDHS still holds a special place in my heart. I graduated from EDHS in June 2007. Some of the best years of my life were at EDHS. I made many great friends at EDHS, many of whom I still keep in touch with. With the exception of last year, I stopped by EDHS every December since I graduated to revisit the principal and teachers who still inspire me to this day. I hope to resume that tradition later this year.

I’ll leave you with this post from my good friend Bob Mooney, senior pastor at the Messiah Lutheran Church in Yorba Linda. Regardless of your faith, give it a read for he helps put this week’s tragedy into perspective.

No Turning Back: Making the Gutsy Move for a Brighter Future

Getting gutsy is all about stepping outside your comfort zone to reach your goals and live a life that makes you truly happy. The following post is my entry for Jessica Lawlor’s Get Gutsy Essay Contest. To get involved and share your own gutsy story, check out this post for contest details and download a free copy of the inspiring Get Gutsy ebook.

(clockwise from top left) Downtown San Jose, Mineta San Jose International Airport, San Jose State University, San Jose City Hall

(clockwise from top left) Downtown San Jose, Mineta San Jose International Airport, San Jose State University, San Jose City Hall

I consider myself to be a fairly lucky person.

There are times throughout my life where things could have taken a very different turn had I not done something about it or if others didn’t step in to guide me in a certain way that made all the difference.

To name a few, these include escaping a home environment with an abusive father as a teenager, going to college on a full scholarship and a two-year public affairs internship at a transportation agency that resulted from a chance encounter months earlier with my soon-to-be boss.

These achievements did not materialize on their own. All required a great deal of effort, dedication and courageousness to achieve the desired outcomes. The latest I’m about to describe is perhaps the gutsiest decision I’ve made thus far.

Back in October 2014, I relocated from my native Los Angeles to the San Francisco Bay Area without a job or housing arrangements lined up. I did this as my career prospects were in a proverbial gutter within the last three years since graduating from college.

The Bay Area consistently held much better hopes for my career prospects. A large part of why I moved up here is to pursue a career opportunity that involves public communication in transportation. As of this writing, I still remain under consideration for the position and my hope is that the outcome will lean in my favor in early 2015.

I went into this move without any certainty over what kind of work or housing arrangements will be waiting for me, if any. I also effected this effort with barely any money left to my name as I felt that staying in Southern California any longer would have worsened matters even more. I regretted not moving to the Bay Area sooner since I was already flirting with the idea for months but was only willing to move once a solid job offer somewhere was presented to me. Having waited long enough I decided, “The hell with this. I’m gonna get going already.”

Although I spent most of my life in the Los Angeles and Orange County areas with my career beginning in the latter, I felt that there was no one left in that part of the Golden State willing to give me a chance anymore. SoCal continues to hold a special place in my heart — after all, it’s where most of my family and friends still remain. It wasn’t easy to leave them behind but I had to in order to keep my moribund professional dreams alive.

Since moving to Campbell, a nice and peaceful suburb of San Jose, I feel that my life has slowly changed for the better. Finally, I live in an area where I fit in as a millennial, the job market is more robust and people value transit and technology greatly.

Through it all, I still remain enrolled as a graduate student for a distance-learning master’s degree program in transportation management at San Jose State University. I’ve been in the program since January 2014, where I first attended classes in L.A. and now in San Jose proper. The move to the Bay Area means I’m closer to the people and the physical resources necessary to advance my education further. June 2016 isn’t that far away.

It’s still too early to tell whether this gamble has paid off. I hope it will, ultimately. What I can say is that I got gutsy by taking chances and effecting change on my own with little to no guarantee of what lies ahead. There’s no turning back now and that’s exactly how I want it to be.